The Problem With Cutscenes

 I wrote an essay on cutscenes a while back.  I recorded it and put in on youtube.  In my attempts to get it out there, I've had a few views, but would like to have more.  In depth discussion of video games is what they need to be seen as an art medium or even a legitimate form of expression.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-0_sak3VAo  
 
And now I am being a pretentious jackass .   In any case, if anyone else has any essays they've written, I'd be stoked to check them out so please direct me to them.    

11 Comments
12 Comments
Posted by sgt_match

 I wrote an essay on cutscenes a while back.  I recorded it and put in on youtube.  In my attempts to get it out there, I've had a few views, but would like to have more.  In depth discussion of video games is what they need to be seen as an art medium or even a legitimate form of expression.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-0_sak3VAo  
 
And now I am being a pretentious jackass .   In any case, if anyone else has any essays they've written, I'd be stoked to check them out so please direct me to them.    

Posted by Spoonman671

 

Posted by PATERSON

I listened to it and your points but I don't really agree. I don't see any problems with cutscenes, being a bit nit picky in my opinion, just another thing to moan about.

Posted by FlyingRat

I have to say i completely disagree, but good job anyway, mate. Did you make this for school or something?

Posted by sgt_match
@Spoonman671:  thanks for embedding it. 
@PATERSON:  Totally see what you're saying.  I'm not calling for the abolition of cutscenes, they aren't going anywhere.   I just think it is up do developers to find creative ways to avoid the disconnect between the cutscenes and the gameplay.
Edited by sgt_match
@FlyingRat: what exactly do you disagree with? 
And, no, not for school.  Just had some thoughts on the subject and was feeling self-important enough to put them on the internet.
Edited by FlyingRat
@sgt_match said:

" @FlyingRat: what exactly do you disagree with? "

I just don't think there's a gap as big as you say there is, between gameplay and cutscenes. From what i hear from you it sounds like you think gameplay is just a bunch of random actions that are not in the service of the story, for which you get "rewarded" with a bit of the story. I can name you tons of games in which the gameplay compliments the story just fine, let's take a random example like Grand Theft Auto IV, say in a cutscene Niko is talking to someone he has to kill and just as the cutscene ends the guy runs away, and the control is given back to me, so that i can chase him. I get to then play the action parts and chase the guy and shoot him and whatever. They didn't let me play the part before that because.... well that would be a conversation simulator of some kind and this is not a roleplaying game, yet the story has to be advanced in some way, so i don't really know what your solution to this problem would be. Do you just want complete and total control in what would normally be cutscenes and give you dialogue options and stuff? Cause 1: To make games that open, and give you that many possibilities to do stuff, is almost impossible, as a developer you'd have to keep in mind every possible choice that the player may make, so they have to guide you in some form if they want to make a coherent and fun story/experience. And 2: There are games that give you much, much more choiches than that, but those are roleplaying games and there are different kinds of games for different kinds of people. 
 
Edit: Oh and sorry about the wall of text. :)
Posted by Icemael

"Were the cutscenes more enjoyable than the gameplay? Really, the question is moot, because either way the game loses. If the gameplay is more enjoyable than the cutscenes, then why the hell does the developer interrupt my experience? And if the cutscenes really are better than the gameplay, why isn't it just a movie?"

Let me address this simply by repeating what you said, with a few changes: 

"Were the action scenes more enjoyable than the rest of the movie? Really, the question is moot, because either way the film loses. If the action scenes are more enjoyable than the rest of the scenes, then why the hell doesn't the movie consist entirely of action scenes? And if the action-free scenes are more enjoyable than the action-filled ones, why is there action at all?"

Posted by sgt_match
@FlyingRat:
Woah!  Great friggin' example with GTA 4.  The gameplay and cutscenes complimented eachother perfectly.  Like Roman getting kidnapped and Niko screaming at the henchmen.  And because of the choice, I felt like the events at the end of the game were my fault.   GTA4 definatley overcame those obstacles.  I'd also throw out Batman: Arkham Asylum as another game that gameplay and cutscenes complimented beautifully.
 
You also make a solid argument with dialogue options.  While generally the story is pretty focused (you visit the same areas no matter what your choices happen to be in most cases) you are directing the story of your character through dialogue options. 
 
I'd throw out the example of Uncharted versus Uncharted 2.  While the gameplay was decent and fun in a lot of cases, there were times when I was fighting a ton on bullet sponge pirates or fending off an onslaught of creepy naked guys where I became frusterated.  The story is what kept me playing.  I pushed through the frusterating bits to advance the story.  Whereas in Uncharted 2, I never (even during the frusterating bits) felt like I was just fighting ai clones.  A lot of the lack of disconnect was due to more varied in game dialogue and frequent scripted events. 
 
I'm not denying that games can, and in many cases HAVE breached the problem of disconnect.  I just feel that the disconncet is a wall developers are going to keep running in to.  Finding new creative solutions to the problem and further merging gameplay and story are essential for developers.  I sometimes find myself playing games on easy just to further advance the story and increase my enjoyment of the game.  I simply pose that the problem exists.  RTS in Brutal Legend, anyone?  And how often do you find that developers throw extra story elements in simply to add more levels to the game.  South America in Modern Warfare 2.  Ok, not the best example, because the story in MW2 was just batshit crazy and the gameplay was great but how did South America advance the plot?
Posted by sgt_match
@Icemael:
Action sequences and action free scenes exits for changes of pace. LOTR:  Return of the King:  Tons of little bits of various characters killing various enemies (Legolas taking out the Oliphant) that do nothing to advance the plot.  The film couldn't have been entirely Tolkien dailogue and it couldn't have been entirely action.  The disconnect problem exists in film, but I don't think it proves as big a problem. 
 
In a game, where in most cases you are going to be doing interactive segments, if you find yourself struggling with the gameplay to see the next cutscene the game has lost.  The interactivity needs to be embraced and integrated.
Posted by Icemael
@sgt_match said:
" In a game, where in most cases you are going to be doing interactive segments, if you find yourself struggling with the gameplay to see the next cutscene the game has lost."
That only occurs when the gameplay is bad (the same is true for the opposite; just replace "gameplay is" with "cutscenes are"). As long as both are enjoyable, it doesn't matter which is more enjoyable.
Posted by sgt_match
@Icemael:
Actually, I agree with you.  Which is better is moot.  My point is that the two segments must coexist.  Gameplay needs context within the story, and the purpose of cutscenes is to provide that context.  Interactive media is a new way to tell a story and as a whole, and storytellers are stil experimenting with ways to work within this medium.  I'm not saying that there aren't games that succeed in telling a compelling story, simply that storytelling in an interactive medium poses a lot of challenges and the industry is still in the early phases of mastering it.